Last month Red Bend Catholic College held a Homeless Sleepover Challenge for their year 8 and year 12 students from the college’s Chisholm and McAuley houses.
The Sleepover Challenge, held in the college's Multipurpose Hall, was undertaken to create awareness about what it was like to be homeless. It was challenging as students were asked to go without food or electronic devices for about 12 hours. They were asked to come with only a sleeping bag, pillow and a bottle of water. We started the night with an introductory liturgy run by the liturgy captains, Kate Green and Caitlin Duncan using cardboard prompts instead of a computerised slideshow.
We had a quiet reflection by writing prayers which would be sent to many young people who are suffering homelessness within parts of Sydney. House Coordinator Mr Pearce talked to us about youth homelessness. Here is a part of what he said:
‘Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” How true! My hope is that you will go out and serve. If you try something and don't find it rewarding, try something else. But use every service experience to learn or affirm something. I was not expecting my world to change, but it did. And so can yours.’
By that time, hunger set in and, to our surprise, a soup kitchen arrived from which we could take the feelings of homelessness to an even more personal depth. The power of a soup kitchen highlighted how it wasn’t the soup which filled our spirits, it was the people who came to help us.
Lights out was at 10:00 PM and this was the real test which was sleeping on gym mats, and some willing students took the difficult task of sleeping on the floor with nothing at all!
Most of us could say that we all had a very restless sleep, and felt very tired and drained the next day, but overall everyone appreciated the tough experience. Homelessness is a situation many could never imagine, but students and staff had a sense of how hard it is and became more open-minded from this experience.
Red Bend Catholic College students Emily Walker and Paige Hay wrote the above reflection. Both students are girl captains for Chisholm and McAuley Houses.
Interested in hosting a Homeless Sleepover or Sleepout Challenge at your school? Find out more at Vinnies Sleepout here.